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Web visits put man in jail

Detroit Free Press | June 30, 2005

Comment:
How long before hate crime laws make the website you're now reading also a criminal offence to visit?

Mohammad Radwan Obeid is a threat to national security because he surfed terrorist Web sites and visited terrorist chat rooms, the FBI claims.

The 33-year-old Jordanian, who came to the United States with his American wife in 2001 and worked at a grocery store in Dayton, Ohio, before his arrest in March on immigration charges, says he was only gathering grist for a book about terrorism and world religions.

He said he volunteered to work for the FBI, but was rejected.

But a federal immigration judge in Detroit last week ordered Obeid jailed pending the outcome of charges that he entered the United States through marriage fraud. He also is being investigated by a federal grand jury.

"When taken altogether, the evidence establishes respondent presents a substantial risk to the national security of the United States," Immigration Judge Robert Newberry said in a June 22 decision denying Obeid's request to be released on bond. He is being held in the Monroe County Jail.

Newberry agreed with the FBI that Obeid's claims of writing a book, his recent conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses and other activities often are used by terrorists to avoid arrest and deportation.

Obeid's fiancee said Tuesday that the FBI is wrong about him.

"There's no way he could be a terrorist," said Misty Iddings, a 30-year-old nurse's aide of Piqua, Ohio. "He wouldn't hurt anybody. He's a very nice person. He's kind and friendly."

Obeid came to the United States in February 2001 as a conditional resident after marrying a Kansas City woman in Jordan, court papers said. Five months after they arrived, their marriage was annulled.

His lawyer, Najad Mehanna of Dearborn Heights, said her family wouldn't accept him because he was Muslim.

Afterward, Mehanna said, Obeid moved to the Dayton area, worked as a cashier at gas stations and convenience stores, and remarried. But the couple split up around May 2003 and he eventually met and moved in with Iddings.

In mid-2004, he became a Jehovah's Witness, decided to write a book about terrorism, and began surfing terrorism sites on the Internet.

Mehanna said Obeid was stunned by what he found on those sites and called the CIA and FBI. He said they didn't take him seriously.

On March 28, agents searched his home and on April 20, arrested him for immigration fraud.

The government has presented secret evidence at his deportation hearings to show that he is a threat to national security.

Obeid's lawyer said he probably would appeal the denial of bond. He also has requested asylum on grounds that Obeid would be persecuted if returned to Jordan because of the FBI's terrorism claims and his new faith.

But the lawyer concedes that Obeid is fighting a difficult battle, which resumes Sept. 19 in Detroit immigration court.

 

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